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Wondering how to put out a cigar? Here’s everything you need to know

Close up of bearded man smoking a cigar almost done.
Nishant Aneja / Pexels

How do you put out a cigar if you’re finished smoking but it’s still burning?

Cigars vary in length due to several factors, like the blend, how it’s rolled, and the size of the cigar — generally, the bigger or longer it is, the longer the burn times. If you’re used to smoking, say a Robusto size, and you opt for a Corona Gorda (Toro), Double Corona, or anything larger, then yeah, it’s going to take a while longer to smoke. If you puff or draw from the cigar a lot, which, admittedly, you shouldn’t do, then it will burn faster, too. Take your time; you’ll get more flavor with a longer burn, and you won’t destroy your mouth or palate. But all of this is to say that you may be caught off-guard while smoking and need to put it out because it’s a long experience. The prevailing question is, what’s the best way to do that? How do you put out a cigar if you’re out in public, for example?

When you get down to brass tacks, there are two questions here. The first is simply how to put out a cigar. The second question is how to save a cigar for later. While I would implore you not to, and I’ll explain why, it is possible to do so.

How to put out a cigar properly

Casa de Montecristo black ashtray close up with Oliva lighter, JFR and Rare Leaf cigars
Briley Kenney / The Manual

The best way to put out a cigar is to let it naturally go out. Over time, the heat inside the cigar will die down, eventually losing its flame. That’s why you should regularly draw from your cigar while it’s resting, to keep it lit. If you’ve ever had a poorly rolled cigar, you’ll find it challenging to keep adequately lit, anyway.

Of course, if you’re letting the cigar douse naturally, you’ll need to ensure it’s safely secured or in a place where it’s safe to do so — don’t rest it near dry grass or foliage, for instance.

The obvious way to let a cigar go out is to leave it resting on a cigar ashtray, which is usually different than a standard or cigarette ashtray. Cigar trays have deep or wide grooves, perfect for resting a cigar in.

If you don’t have an ashtray available, you could also:

  • If you’re in public, hold the cigar and let it go out naturally, then throw it away somewhere suitable. Do not throw lit cigars in the trash or on the ground.
  • Use a cold beverage, nearby water, or even some saliva to douse the end of the cigar and weaken the flame. Although, the spit option isn’t considered socially acceptable if you’re in a public setting.
  • Look for nearby ashtrays or smoking trash receptacles that cigarette smokers might use.
  • Use a bowl or plate in place of an ashtray, but only if you or the owner don’t value the dishware. Otherwise, it will most likely ruin the dish.
  • Press the burning end of the cigar into some dirt or sand, called stubbing, to weaken the flame. Before doing so, make sure there is no dry foliage, grass, or wood. Then, keep an eye on the cigar for a few minutes until it’s totally out.

If the cigar is still smoking, even just a little, do not leave it unattended unless it is safely secured, like resting in an ashtray.

When to put out a cigar

how to smoke a cigar
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual / The Manual

The right time to put out a cigar is hotly debated among enthusiasts. Some say you should smoke a good cigar down to a nub, while others feel that is brash or rude.

Personally, I always choose when to put out my cigars based on the experience, but allow me to explain. If the cigar is delicious or I enjoy it, I’ll smoke as much as possible. I’ve always heard the three-finger rule, which tends to coincide with the band positioning on most cigars. For the rule, you take your index, middle, and ring fingers, press them together, and then hold them up in line with where you cut the cigar. If what’s left is less than your three fingers, putting out the cigar is acceptable. But that also still leaves a lot of the cigar left, especially if it’s a good blend or expensive. Speaking of good blends, here are my top picks for cigars under $8.

The next best way to gauge the right time is to simply smoke. As the heat passes through the cigar, you’ll notice it gets hotter on your lips. When it feels like your lips are burning slightly, to the point where it’s uncomfortable, I wouldn’t smoke much more — in other words, you should probably put it out. The reason this is measured by feeling versus actual dimensions is that the experience changes based on the cigar. With some cigars, you’ll feel that burning sensation earlier, and this can even be affected by how the cigars are stored. If they’re dry or too humid, they can sometimes burn hotter. That’s why knowing how to properly store your cigars is paramount to keeping a healthy collection. You can read more about this in our Cigar Humidor 101.

Finally, and probably one of the most essential points, a cigar is meant to be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. If you light a new cigar and you’re not enjoying it, putting it out early is perfectly acceptable. While you don’t want to habitually do this because, frankly, you’ll be wasting a lot of good cigars and money, you’ll find that you won’t like every cigar you smoke. More than a few times, I was utterly disgusted or put off by what I was tasting and chose not to finish my cigar. It happens, and it’s okay.

How to save a cigar for later

Close-up of hands cutting a cigar with a cigar cutter.
Genevieve Poblano / The Manual

Storing or saving a cigar that you started smoking is possible, sure, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so. As you smoke, tar can build up at the head of the cigar, and while it’s lit, simply blowing a little can move this away — tar also affects the flavor. But once the cigar is no longer lit, that tar soaks the tobacco. The smoke and ash also affect the flavors, and depending on where you place the cigar — never ever put a previously lit cigar in your humidor — it may also dry out by the time you’re ready to relight.

If you leave the cigar to grab some dinner and will be back within the hour, that’s a different story. It’s still reasonably close to when you first lit the cigar. You can use the method below to prep and relight.

If you’re still convinced you want to save your cigar for later, here are the steps:

  • Let the cigar go out on its own.
  • Once you’re confident it’s entirely out, use a cigar cutter to cut off the foot about half an inch behind the ash line.
  • If you’re coming back soon, like within an hour, you can leave the cigar on an ashtray unless it’s cold out.
  • If you store the cigar for over an hour, put it inside a plastic bag, press out all the extra air, and seal it tight. Do not put the cigar or the bag back in your humidor.

I highly recommend that you smoke any stored cigars within 24 hours. The longer you wait, the more flavor they’ll lose, especially if they dry out. If you plan to store longer than that, finish the cigar or throw it out.

I have seen guides that set the expiration mark around 48 hours, but anything over a full day will result in a sub-par, most likely stale experience.

How to relight a cigar

Close-up of someone lighting a cigar with a lighter.
Genevieve Poblano / The Manual

If you’re smoking a cigar and it goes out — it happens to the best of us — you’ll need to relight the foot. Tap the cigar on the edge of your ashtray or wherever you’re dumping your ash to release any loose bits. If it’s been an hour or longer since you smoked the cigar, cut off the foot about a half inch from the ash line to give it a fresh starting point.

Relight the cigar the way you did the first time, rolling it lightly or waving the flame back and forth across the foot.

If the cigar is a nub or less than your three fingers when measured with the rule, I would not recommend relighting. By the way, here are the best luxury lighters to help you light your cigar evenly and look good while doing it.

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Briley Kenney
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